Sunday, July 31, 2011

IMM (7/31/11)

End of summer is upon me and I'm wondering if I will have more or less time to read once the kids and I return to school/work. *Sigh*

I love summer.

This week I received for review by begging, stealing, borrowing, and even buying:

Forbidden (The Books of Mortals)The Things We Cherished: A NovelKiss of Night: A NovelThe Wounded Heart: An Amish Quilt NovelThe Call: A NovelDomestic Violets: A Novel (P.S.)Circle of Fire (Prophecy of the Sisters, Book 3) (Prophecy of the Sisters Trilogy)Hamlet's BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age

Check my new contests on the right margin

New contests being posted this week like:

Left Neglected

And for review this week so far:
This Beautiful Life: A NovelThe Sixes: A NovelThe Call: A Novel

and I hope a couple more. Depends on what I read and what I write and when I work and when I ignore my kids.

Have a great week!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Left Neglected

Sarah Nickerson, like any other working mom, is busy trying to have it all. One morning while racing to work and distracted by her cell phone, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In that blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her over-scheduled life come to a screeching halt. After a brain injury steals her awareness of everything on her left side, Sarah must retrain her mind to perceive the world as a whole. In so doing, she also learns how to pay attention to the people and parts of her life that matter most.
In this powerful and poignant New York Times bestseller, Lisa Genova explores what can happen when we are forced to change our perception of everything around us. Left Neglected is an unforgettable story about finding abundance in the most difficult of circumstances, learning to pay attention to the details, and nourishing what truly matters.

My take: I am asked what a good book would be for a book club and I hesitate. I want to be able to recommend a book that 1) has the power to transform or alter perception 2) is written well 3) is clean enough that I can look the ladies in the eye at church after they have read it. This one passes all three of my requirements.

I'm going to work backwards.

The book is clean. Yes, there is swearing but I don't recall anything blatantly offensive. Yes, there is sex as Sarah reconnects with that portion of herself and her husband. In fact, that was one of my favorite parts of the book in regard to Sarah's healing.

The book is written well. It struck me, in fact, that Genova is more than a novelist but also an essayist. She writes each chapter so it connects with the book but the chapters are like well written essays. Each one addresses something in particular while following the chronology of Sarah's life. On top of this, I loved the protagonist. She is snarky, spunky, intelligent, high achieving, and juggling the demands of career and home. Genova describes the ins and outs of motherhood and appointments in a way that I didn't know if I wanted to laugh or cry. The constant struggle of balancing these aspects often do have me either mentally writing a blog post in my head or curling up in fetal position when I hit my tipping point. Genova seems to understand this very well. 

The content makes the reader think. The story is about a woman who suffers TBI and maintains her memories, her speech, hearing, sight, taste, touch, most of her neurological function and all of her wit and intellect. What she loses is the connection to the left side of her body. It still works. It's still connected to her brain. She simply does not recognize it. There is no left. She doesn't own a left leg because it doesn't exist. On the other hand, if someone taps her left leg or scratches her left arm, she feels it or it hurts. She has to retrain herself to pay attention to the parts of her body that don't exist to her anymore. Her progress or lack thereof could be viewed as tedious as it is slow and, like real life, a neurological injury does not fully heal. On the other hand, if reading the chapters like essays, each chapter offers wisdom and growth. On a personal note, it gave me a huge insight and respect for my father's brain surgery which caused neurological damage 16 years ago and his tenacity to retrain his brain.

Abstractly, the book is about neglect. In one part of the book, Sarah remembers an article that explains the 20% rule. We only need to understand 20% of something to be effective doing 80% of it. Trying to understand something 100% is a waste of time and we will neglect something else in our life of import. The story nudges the reader to look at her own life and assess what she may be neglecting that is important? What can be simplified and scaled back to manageable bite sizes in order to concentrate on what is important? What can be forsaken?

This is an awesome read. It is funny, moving, and cerebral.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Addie on the Inside by James Howe Review

Addie on the InsideAddie on the Inside by James Howe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads:The Gang of Five is back in this third story from Paintbrush Falls. Addie Carle, the only girl in the group of friends is outspoken, opinionated, and sometimes…just a bit obnoxious.

But as seventh grade progresses, Addie’s not so sure anymore about who she is. It seems her tough exterior is just a little too tough and that doesn’t help her deal with the turmoil she feels on the inside as she faces the pains of growing up.

Told in elegant, accessible verse, ADDIE ON THE INSIDE gives readers a look at a strong, smart, and sensitive girl struggling with the box society wants to put her in. Addie confronts experiences many readers will relate to: the loss of a beloved pet, first heartbreak, teasing…but also, friendship, love, and a growing confidence in one’s self.

You Are Who They Say You Are

They say in the seventh grade

you are who they say you are,

but how can that be true?

How can I be a /Godzilla-girl /lezzie loser /know-it-all/

big-mouth /beanpole /string bean/ freaky tall/

fall-down /spaz attack /brainiac /maniac/

hopeless nerd /*bad word*/brown-nosing /teacher’s pet/

showing off /just to get

attention –


and did I mention:


How can I be all that?

It’s too many things to be.

How can I be all that and

still be true to the real me
while everyone is saying:

My take: I didn't read The Misfits. I'm certain it was wonderful. I do know that James Howe has an uncanny connection to the 7th grade girl. The girl who is uncertain and trying to fit in while doing what she knows is right and feeling misunderstood and grieving the end of her childhood yet yearning to be an adult... Obviously, I might still have some unfinished business from my own adolescence.

There are simply too many gems to address so I will touch on only a few.

  1. I loved the prose. Written in poetry form, the feelings and experiences are concise and artistically painted. I felt Addie's angst and it was well placed.
  2. Addie's connection to her grandmother was simply beautiful. In her social travels, she found she was most at home with the eccentric old lady that truly understood her and cheered her on. I've found that I value my children's relationships with their grandparents more than ever. It grounds them.
  3. Kennedy and Johnson, Addie's cats - seem to have a radar that hones in when a 13 year old girl needs a good cry. That happens to be the moment when one or the other settle upon Addie's lap and calm her nerves with the rhythmic purr and kneading. Okay, I added the kneading. Some things I still understand even though this was true for me when I was 13 and still is now that I'm significantly older than 13.
  4. The complete and utter devastation of feeling like a social pariah. The laughs, the name calling, the shunning.
  5. Addie is a calm girl. She takes the end of her romantic relationship with DuShawn with poise.
  6. Until she gets home and throws herself on her bed and cries and cries.
  7. In order to properly address heartbreak and a 13 year old girl, the author should have dedicated 245 more poems to this angst. However, taking literary license to sum it up in just a few pages saves the reader from becoming bored.
Loved it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wildefire by Karsten Knight

Wildefire (Wildefire, #1)Wildefire by Karsten Knight

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: Every flame begins with a spark. 

Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.

My take:Well. That was a wild ride. Interesting introduction to main characters that encapsulate the lesser known gods of yore. The most intriguing part of this book is the mystery. The gods and goddesses at Blackwood don't know they are gods and goddesses. When they discover what they are, they all know who they are quickly. Except Ashline. This puzzle is resolved by the last third of the book or so.

Next puzzle are the Cloaks. Finding them is part of the fun so I won't say much about these/this creature. They do play an integral part in the resolution of some of the conflicts which I found interesting which leads us to the next question -

Who are the good guys and bad guys? Is there any such thing, anymore. Mythology is riddled with beings endowed with far too much power. Perhaps, then, the real question is not good vs. evil but agenda. What is Eve's agenda along with the mysterious Blink and Cloaks?

As mentioned in another review I read, the main characters are women yet the overall theme is not man-bashing or girl-power. Instead, they stood side by side with their male counterparts to kick butt one moment, then bond like a normal teenage girl the next.

Diversity is another strong point that was not shoved down the throat of the reader but rather, the main characters happened to come from all over the world. Ashline and Eve are Polynesian. Raja is Egyption, Ade, Haitian, Colt being part Hopi and Rolffe is German. Naturally, we also have the token gay guy, Darren. By far my favorite character is Jackie. Completely loved her and her ability to be nonplussed under any circumstances and still quip a deadpan joke.

The story is violent. Exceedingly so. When the gods are angry, havoc is wreaked. Death and destruction are second nature or maybe Mother Nature. It is a bit on the disturbing side. There is sex but done behind closed doors. Language is moderate but consistent with the gals of the story being sarcastic, witty, and tough.

Ending - Did. Not. See. That. Coming.

Awesomely sets up the next book but provides enough closure to enough of the conflicts for a satisfactory end of book.

I liked it. I didn't love it but I have no complaints about it. It is unique and surprising but expect blood, gore, death, destruction and characters you're going to like a lot.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Left NeglectedLeft Neglected by Lisa Genova

Goodreads: Sarah Nickerson, like any other working mom, is busy trying to have it all. One morning while racing to work and distracted by her cell phone, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In that blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her over-scheduled life come to a screeching halt. After a brain injury steals her awareness of everything on her left side, Sarah must retrain her mind to perceive the world as a whole. In so doing, she also learns how to pay attention to the people and parts of her life that matter most.

In this powerful and poignant New York Times bestseller, Lisa Genova explores what can happen when we are forced to change our perception of everything around us. Left Neglected is an unforgettable story about finding abundance in the most difficult of circumstances, learning to pay attention to the details, and nourishing what truly matters.

My take: Okay. I'm going to be honest. I haven't finished the book. Not because I didn't find it interesting but because I forgot to pack it on my vacation. I can, however, tell you that the first few pages of it has me LOVING the protagonist who views her gym as a charity since she pays for it but never goes, she accuses her husband of playing "Possum" when he pretends to be asleep when the baby cries, and she's crazy with her juggling act of 1) mother, 2) wife (which can barely be distinguished with mother) and 3) career-woman. I can relate.

I love her writing style and I wish the protagonist was real so I could be her best friend.

Is that sad? I hope that's not too sad. Maybe I'll find I don't like her at all after her accident. We'll see.

Anyway, my review is pending BUT here's a little carrot to dangle in front of your face - there's a GIVEAWAY post in the very near future.


Until then - think happy thoughts and Choose the Right.

Get it? Left Neglected? HA! I crack myself up!

Siren's Storm by Lisa Papademetriou

Siren's StormSiren's Storm by Lisa Papademetriou

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good first novel in a set. I assume there will be more in the series since interesting information was revealed by the end of the book and some of the questions were not fully answered. The author fleshed out the main characters and provided a comprehensive back-story on the Siren creature. Asia is an extremely likeable non-human. Will, one of the protagonists, is a clueless and rather immature boy who I hope to see growth in the relationship arena. Gretchen is a free-spirited funny girl who requires more revelation regarding her origins. Turns out, she is adopted and that seems to be a key to her quirkiness.

Love the cover. This is who I saw whenever Asia made an appearance. I do hope she is not gone, GONE. Her story could definitely continue with the new revelations at the end of the book. Loved the new story line using Sirens as the paranormal creatures. Although I still yearn to finish certain fallen angel series, I'm so finished with vampires and quite satisfied with my favorite werewolves in Minnesota.

I don't feel like the story is complete although the book can stand alone if the reader really wants it to. Me? I'd like to see more of what comes next.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rules of Civility: A NovelRules of Civility: A Novel by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility: A NovelRules of Civility: A Novel by Amor Towles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles is somewhat of a historical novel of the year 1938 except it's really the story of Kate Kontent and the different people she met, the choices she made, and the way her choices molded her for the next couple of decades. It seems a bit random yet I am very drawn to this story because of certain truths I gleaned from it. Here's what I liked:

Kate: Human, quick witted, well read, learns best by living although reading is an excellent past time. She bounces back and morphs into a person of interest because of the people and experiences of this year. On her own she is quite boring and tends to be a girl of opportunity. She takes some stands by the end, changes her mind and her ways and sees her own hypocrisy. She is complex and I so enjoyed the dialogue. For this I forgive her loose morals.

Eve: A completely unexpected character. Although completely beautiful and witty, she also comes from a background of means. She can always go home to her parents where there is wealth and opportunity to marry well and pop out babies. She chooses her own destiny and is not the opportunist I expected. She also taught the best truism of the book. As Kate is reading to her, Eve tells her to skip and begin on page 104, where the action really begins.

Extension of this concept is another scene at work where Kate is looking at snapshots of Bette Davis, knowing that whatever will be published will define her. This is what we really get when we meet people in our twenties or thirties; 103 pages have already been written that set up the background of who they are. We've skipped it so we don't get a complete picture. What we have is a snapshot and often make our judgments based on that defining moment. Erroneously.

Tinker: The one who changes the most and realizes the difference between being driven by wants and needs. His snapshot changes for the reader.

Wallace: The most genuine of the characters. Admirable and humble.

Anne: Never satiated, she is often the cause of conflict although not because she is untruthful. She is forthright and interesting.

This one is a solid 4 star book. It makes me think and I almost appreciated Hemingway. I read The Old Man and the Sea and found myself utterly depressed and despairing by the end. For all he suffered to catch that big fish, the sharks still ate it. Had I skipped the first 103 pages, I would not have been so bored nor would have suffered through his suffering. If Hemingway had skipped the first 103 pages he might not have met such a tragic end.

But perhaps that is the beauty of being Hemingway.

Thanks to Viking, I get to offer one very lucky reader a copy!  Yay!

Info below. Fill out the FORM and smile while you do it. Really. It will make your day.

Supernaturally by Kiersten White

Supernaturally (Paranormalcy, #2)

From Goodreads:  A lot has changed in the six months since Evie escaped from the International Paranormal Containment Agency with her shape-shifter boyfriend, Lend. She finally has the blissfully normal life she’s always dreamed of, including: 

1) A real live high school 
2) A perfectly ordinary after-school job 
3) Her very own locker (and by the way, rusted metal is every bit as awesome as she imagined) 

But Evie’s not-so-normal past keeps creeping up on her...and things get pretty complicated when you factor in: 

1) A centuries-old, seriously decaying vampire stalker 
2) A crazy faerie ex-boyfriend who is the perpetual bearer of really bad news 
3) A major battle brewing between the faerie courts where the prize in question happens to be...Evie herself. 

My take:  Let's back up.  This is book #2.  I loved book #1.  If you skip #1, I think you'll be able to catch up but you'll miss a lot of fun.  In summary, Evie works for IPCA which is an agency that keeps track of paranormals which roam around us but in disguise called "glamour."  Evie seems to be the only paranormal who can see through the glamour and know what the creatures really are.  She can rebuff the silky sound of a vampire trying to talk her into not tagging him.  She can see that he is not a handsome Italian but a withered old guy with age spots hungering for blood. 

Bottom line is IPCA captures an intruder who Evie can see and she discovers that IPCA is not so very altruistic after all.  For instance, since werewolves are so difficult to control, they just neuter 'em.  She falls in love with the new creature named Lend, has fairy trouble, hates the fairy paths they travel (which are quick but scary), runs away with Lend and starts a new life as a regular high school student with her very. Own. Locker.  *SQUEE!*

New book finds Evie on her back looking at the sky and no breath in her lungs.  That's right, phys. ed.  She's livin' the dream.  She's working at Lend's dad's diner with other paranormals seeking a peaceful existence, attending high school, making out with Lend when Raquel from IPCA shows up.  She needs help.  Weird stuff is happening.  Evie agrees to help if she doesn't have to work with fairies because they are seriously creepy folks.  And she doesn't want anybody from her new life to know she is covertly working for IPCA.

Enter Jack.  Jack is a lunatic.  He's also human and knows how to navigate the fairy paths without the help of fairies.  He was stolen as a child by the fairies so he knows a thing or two.  But he's still a lunatic.  He takes Evie on different missions that seem to end up much more exciting (read: dangerous) than she had imagined.  

I like the story because it's a near-parody on paranormal literature.  I love the protagonist because she says what she's thinking and forgets to do the stupid teenager sulking stuff.  I love the dialog because it's just plain hilarious.

From ARC (which may differ from final book):
I stood and tucked it (the iron necklace) into my sock drawer, fingering the heart one last time before turning back to Jack. 
"Any other iron on you?" he asked impatiently. 
"Just my tongue stud." 
His look was a mixture of curiosity and horror. 
"I'm kidding, you idiot.  Let's go." 

Clean read.  No swearing besides "Oh, Bleep!"  Some violence because, c'mon, they're paranormals.  


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson

Middle School, The Worst Years of My LifeMiddle School, The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: Rafe Khatchadorian has enough problems at home without throwing his first year of middle school into the mix. Luckily, he's got an ace plan for the best year ever, if only he can pull it off: With his best friend Leonardo the Silent awarding him points, Rafe tries to break every rule in his school's oppressive Code of Conduct. Chewing gum in class-5,000 points! Running in the hallway-10,000 points! Pulling the fire alarm-50,000 points! But when Rafe's game starts to catch up with him, he'll have to decide if winning is all that matters, or if he's finally ready to face the rules, bullies, and truths he's been avoiding.

Blockbuster author James Patterson delivers a genuinely hilarious-and surprisingly poignant-story of a wildly imaginative, one-of-kind kid that you won't soon forget.

My take: I simply can't say much about this book because there are surprises I didn't see coming that were truly game-changing. It's not a life-altering book or a literary masterpiece. It's a story about a 13 year old boy trying to navigate the terrifying and uncertain path of middle school which, for the record, I believe should be outlawed, anyway.

Rafe has a rebellious streak and, with the coaxing of his one friend, Leo, he comes up with the brilliant idea of systematically breaking every rule by the end of the school year. There are 112 of them. He assigns them points and makes a goal. The antics are disturbing to the educator in me, defeating for the parent in me, and hilarious for the latent adolescent in me.

Then a curve ball. Interesting.

In the meantime, the reader understands Rafe's need for attention albeit negative given his mother's chosen addiction; a low-life guy taking up space on the sofa, yelling at her kids and collecting unemployment checks. His sister, Georgia, seems to be the kind of daughter that plays by the rules. Although Rafe is irritated by her very presence, he is also protective of her in a way a big brother can be in the face of an unpleasant future stepfather. Rafe's mother works double shifts to pay for her two children and no-good fiance.

Themes are appropriately addressed for the target audience. There is nothing horribly disturbing about any of Rafe's activities or the behavior by any of the other characters although there is a little violence which contributes well to the story.

I can't believe I just wrote that last sentence.

Then another curve ball. Followed by a real doozie of curve ball.

Satisfying read.

Sex: None
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Dialogue: Clean

View all my reviews

And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky Review

And Then Things Fall ApartAnd Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

My take: Keek is short for Karina and she's just a 15 year old book geek who is cut off from civilization and sanity as she convelesces in her grandmother's attic. She has the chicken pox which is much worse when you are a teenager. Her only company is a copy of Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar and an old typewriter. She isn't speaking to her adulterating father, her mother is choosing to be in California helping her own sister with a premature baby instead of caring for Keek, she and her boyfriend had a big fight, her best friend is the adulterating partner, and her high school best friend is estranged. So Keek writes on the typewriter.

The diary entries or whatever they would be called are a cross between self-centered and highly intellectual. The way the author fleshes out Keek develops her character very well. As a 15 year old teenager, she is self-centered. As a book geek, she puts many of us to shame. Unfortunately, that part was a little alienating since I haven't read Sylvia Plath. At the same time, Keek gives enough background information that Plath's work is reframed in Keek's mind and understandable.

Keek is obsessed with losing her virginity. She details the physical and sexual activities that she and Matt have managed to act out before she freaks out and has to leave. It is explicit enough that I would not hand the book to my teenage daughters with a recommendation. On the other hand, it is not fraught with unnecessary language (although swearing is present and I counted at least 3 or 4 'f' bombs) I wouldn't have a problem seeing it in a high school library.

The book is slow moving since Keek is nearly living in a vacuum. On the other hand, the limited contact she has with the people closest to her has definition and provides insight into her circumstances. Keek evolves while staying true to her character. Her opinions change quickly as she goes from loving Matt and everything about him to hating him passionately. Keek ultimately discovers how both parents contributed to their impending divorce and I liked how Keek understood her need to retain a relationship with both of her parents regardless of their faults.


*Don't read the next paragraph if you don't want to read this*

I personally wanted to bitty slap her mother. Being a middle aged mother myself and watching the attention go from pretty me to my pretty 16 year old daughter and realizing I'm older and not the pretty one, I understand the feelings of moving to a different life stage. I've watched it with my friends. I've fought it myself. Ultimately, mothers' jobs are to accept they had their day of beauty and now we get to cultivate our daughters.

*End of Spoiler*

Language - moderate.
Sex - heavy talk
Swearing - moderate to strong

Recommend? Maybe to a certain population of students.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

IMM (7/24/11)

So I've been on vacation which means I did read but had limited access to the internet. It's going to look like I'm a complete book hog which I am but this is for two weeks.

Just to clarify, I can still waterski.
Thanks to Highland 2nd Ward church ball, my sister, Joey, and I make formidable respectable volleyball players.

What I read this week and some of last:
The Last Letter from Your Lover: A NovelThe Beginning of AfterIron HouseMichael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25JusticeNow Is the Time for RunningSiren's Storm

For review:
Left NeglectedAnd Then Things Fall ApartIn Malice, Quite Close: A NovelThe Butterfly Cabinet: A NovelMice: A NovelMore Stories from Grandma's Attic (The Grandma's Attic Series)Still More Stories from Grandma's Attic (Grandma's Attic Series)DragonSpell (Dragon Keepers Chronicles, Book 1)Shut Up and Dance!: The Joy of Letting Go of the Lead—On the Dance Floor and OffTouch of Frost (Mythos Academy)The Rafters: Book 1 of the Somnambulist SagaMy Life UndecidedThe Twelfth Enchantment: A NovelHere Lies Bridget (Harlequin Teen)A Dog's PurposeThe Winters in Bloom: A Novel

This week's reviews will include some AMAZING AND BOOKS THAT MAKE ME YELL! 


Supernaturally (Paranormalcy)Siren's StormWildefireAddie on the InsideRules of Civility: A NovelAnd Then Things Fall Apart
Next week I will be posting new giveaways!  Wahoo!
Peace out!